Sunday, 17 August 2014

Greg Dubeau

Every once in a while a purist will take control of a major arts institution. Their strong ideological belief system will rule over all else, as did the rule of one director of the National Gallery of Canada who is said to have never allowed for the purchase of a single drawing for the gallery walls. It’s certainly no crime, but an odd choice.
     Drawing is one of the most essential ways in which you, the lay public, can discern whether an artist actually has any raw talent, which is why the ability to draw is often downplayed by defenders of contemporary art, where quite often no drawing skills are required.
     Drawing however is only one part of the process and many artists in the last hundred years have shown that is certainly possible to skip it entirely and continue to produce valuable works. But once in a while it’s great to see drawing fully employed by a talented artist.
        It’s been a bit of a round trip for Greg Dubeau. He left Thunder Bay not long ago for Sheridan College in Oakville to study animation for 4 years. Then moved to Victoria, B.C. for two years to study graphic design at Vancouver Island University. Back in Thunder Bay, he has worked for two years as a graphic designer for Generator, a local design company.
     At only 28 years of age he’s shown a remarkable professionalism not only with his drawing abilities, but also thematically in his work, making commentary with still life paintings and portraits. It’s clear he is a remarkable draftsman, but he is employing his skills to follow his heart, which is unusually inspired by an understanding of the basics of both popular culture and fine art. This means he is mixing traditional functions of art and managing to express himself as well. The results are clever detailed works with a good deal of thought.
     “I guess you could consider it fine art,” Greg states. “I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in. The gallery scene is kind of new to me. I think I can do well there if I found the right mentor or opportunity.”
     What will help Greg get into the gallery scene, if he chooses to do so is that he is also interested in avoiding easy subject matter. “I love the idea of commentary, of having a message behind the image. It’s easy to paint something beautiful. In my mind there’s a lot of typical beauty in art, but the shot glass with the rusty nails is different. There’s beauty in stuff that’s rough around the edges.”
     Greg says that his professors drilled the importance of allegory and metaphor into him. Illustrators are trained to fully enliven text for an article or to sell a product. They employ techniques that reveal the underlying functions, meaning and even humour of their subject to create associated or even disassociated imagery to not only reveal what the text or product is about but to make the text or products appear more valuable than they actually are. Illustrators use traditional persuasion and conviction techniques that have been used by artists for thousands of years . So Greg is a bit like Don Draper of Madmen, but Greg is taking a more humane and personal route rather than trying to sell you Lucky Strike cigarettes.
     Greg recently had a show of a few pieces at the Baggage Building Arts Centre, currently has a couple pieces at the group show in the Definitely Superior Art Gallery on Park Street and a couple pieces hanging at Gargoyles. He’s becoming active in the arts community, made prints of his works and will show at local festivals. He’s working towards a solo show that he might host next year. You can see his work at

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